|The Rushden Echo, 28th February 1964, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Redevelopment? - It’s 50-50 On Town Centre
It has been said that living in Rushden has three redeeming features. One, Kettering is only 11 miles away. two, Northampton is only 15 and three Bedford is only 13. A back-handed compliment to say the least, but is it fair or just criticism?
Those who subscribe to the view that it is, obviously base their criticism on the comparison of shopping centres, and it is true to say that Rushden’s shopping “centre” a third-of-a-mile stretch of High Street bears no comparison with Wellingborough’s let alone Kettering, Northampton and Bedford.
One would assume therefore that the possible redevelopment of Rushden town centre would be welcomed by everybody, but this week the “Echo” uncovered a stumbling block which few people in authority realised existed.
There are almost as many people living in the area who would oppose a redevelopment scheme as there are those who would support it.
This somewhat startling fact was revealed in a series of selective interviews conducted by the “Echo” to test public reaction following Wednesday’s Urban Council meeting, at which the question of a new town centre was again raised.
The clerk, Mr. A. G. Crowdy, was instructed to write to the county planning department, asking when it would be possible to give attention to the question of redeveloping Rushden.
In November last year the council was told that it was hoped to look into the question of a development plan and prepare preliminary suggestions in the New Year.
Undoubtedly those most concerned with any scheme to alter present shopping facilities are the housewives, and many, it would seem, are against change.
The presidents of Rushden St. Crispin and Higham Ferrers Chichele Townswomen’s Guilds, Mrs. H. W. Catlin and Mrs. A. C. A. Colton, respectively, said they preferred things as they were.
Mrs. Colton said that the present range of shops in Rushden was adequate to meet general needs. A shopping area with a pedestrian precinct would be a good thing for young mothers, but she was not keen on supermarkets and that type of shop.
Mrs. Catlin said if a redevelopment scheme was carried out she thought one would lose the personal touch in service. “I have seen new town centres at Coventry and Portsmouth, and although they are clean they seem to be soulless,” she said.
During the 15 years she had lived in Rushden the town had developed steadily. She thought it should continue to grow on those lines and, at the same time retain the town’s best characteristics.
Mr. R. Sutton, chairman of the Rushden Ratepayers’ Association, had different views. He said that the town could not stand still and the redevelopment scheme would come eventually.
It was not so much what the town wanted, but what it could afford. He also stressed that it would be better to have an overall plan rather than an “itty bitty” affair.
Mr. John Coleman, chairman of Rushden, Higham Ferrers and District Chamber of Trade, welcomed a redevelopment scheme, but had reservations.
He said that as a chamber they would be interested in a new town centre, and they would like to discuss the matter so that their views could be aired.
“But we would probably have certain reservations, because it unfortunately happens that these schemes tend to exclude the small businessman,” he said.
He thought the most probable area for redevelopment was between High Street and Alfred Street, an area which could later be extended to incorporate other shops.
Three people shopping in the High Street made the following comments:
Miss E. Briggs, a shopkeeper in the town for 27 years, said that it would be a good idea in that it would replace a lot of older and dilapidated shopsin the main shopping centre. On the other hand, she thought a pedestrian-only area would mean a slump in trade.
Another woman agreed. “I think most people nowadays like to drive up to shops in their cars. If they were not allowed to they would probably go somewhere else,” she said.
A Rushden housewife’s comment was: “I think Rushden should follow the example of Wellingborough in this or Wellingborough will take most of the trade away from the town.”
It would seem that the key to the whole problem is traffic. Until that problem can be solved there is little point in preparing any sort of modernisation scheme which will attract more people hence more vehicles into the town.
One solution would be to divert traffic from the High Street altogether. Traffic could use Rectory Road and go via Skinner’s Hill and Duck Street. This would make a ring road of sorts around most of the High Street, and the whole of that central area could be used for gradual redevelopment.
The Rushden Echo, 3rd April 1964, transcribed by Jim Hollis
£60 a square yard for Webb’s
Rising Cost of High St. Property
The sale of the former leather goods shop of S. P. Webb in High Street, Rushden, for £7,650 is a valid pointer to the future cost of property in the High Street.
With a frontage of 13 feet, the shop covers an area of 130 square yards. Last week’s buyer therefore thought it worth paying about £60 a square yard for the premises.
It was interesting to note at the sale that few people were interested in buying the property, preferring to confine their interest in the price for which it went.
Estate agents estimated that Webb’s shop would sell for around £5,000, but added: “Anything could happen. You never know what will happen with property, especially in a place like Rushden, where there has not been an auction sale of property on the High Street for a long time.”
On the fifteenth of this month a redevelopment site, 147 to 153 High Street, covering 5,750 square yards, comes up for sale by auction. The site will be sold in two lots, 147 and 149 to 153.
Taking £60 per square yard as a pointer, this site could sell for as much as £345,000.
Estate agents agreed that this price would be quite unreasonable, but it is an interesting comparison.
Jokingly, it has been suggested that the combined premises of the High Street would sell for this amount.
Agents also admit that Webb’s fetched “a very good price for its size,” but are unwilling to give a possible price for the redevelopment site. Nor are figures available for comparison with the cost of similar property in other towns.
They do say that a lot of interest has been shown in the property in Rushden, with many people asking to view it: “Its cost will depend on the demand at the time.” The price we mention is fantastic. This is clearly seen when compared with the cost of Overstone Solarium, which was sold at the end of last year. This Northamptonshire beauty spot, which covers about 107 acres, was auctioned for £164,000
The Rushden redevelopment site, zoned for shops and offices in the town map, covers just over one acre.
Rushden Council’s surveyor, Mr. W. J. Anker, emphasises that planning permission would be far more readily granted for shops and offices than for industrial premises.
He foresees the added difficulty of providing adequate car parking space in the town as development proceeds.
“We have got to look into the future as far as car parking is concerned. For the moment the town is adequately provided for, but as development proceeds they are going to be swallowed up.”
It would be fair, he thought, to ask prospective developers in the town to provide parking space for their staff, leaving public car parks free for customers.
|The Rushden Echo, 17th April 1964, transcribed by Jim Hollis
No Sale for High Street Sites
Two re-development sites off Rushden High Street, described as the largest to be offered in the town since before the war, were withdrawn at an auction at Northampton on Wednesday, bidding stopped short of the reserve prices.
The first lot, 147 High Street, covers a total area of 3,000 square yards, and was withdrawn at £29,000. Bidding started at £15,000 and rose by increments of £1,000.
The second lot, 149 to 153 High Street, covers a total area of 2,750 square yards. In this case bidding started at £12,000 and rose by increments of £1,000 to £24,000 when it was withdrawn.
The auctioneer said both sites had been zoned in Rushden Town map for shopping purposes. In fact, they were advertises as “highly suitable for complete re-development as shops and offices with living accommodation above.”
|The Rushden Echo, 13th May 1966, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Planners Study Rushden and How it Will Grow
The proposals include:
1. The provision of a by-pass for through traffic to avoid the shopping street.
2. The gradual redevelopment of shopping premises.
3. The encouragement of industrialists to relocate their factories outside the central area.
4. The widening of the main street to provide a through lane for traffic while either short term parking or off-loading of trade vehicles could be permitted.
5. The construction of five additional car parks to provide a further 540 car parking spaces.
A comprehensive survey of the Rushden central area - the High Street - of the future was published by the county planning department last week and a map gives a clear indication of how the planning department see the gradual growth of Rushden.
There are three important features. One is a route going via Duck Street, past the swimming pool and out on to Station Road. This is being safeguarded as a possible link road.
The second feature is scheduled roadways at the rear of High Street shops for rear service roads and the third important feature is the number of additional car parks suggested. It is suggested that more car parking areas should be provided off Duck Street, Rectory Road and Station Road.
Other than the fact that the shopping development area has been slightly extended, mainly to the rear of existing shops, those are the three main proposals.
However, it is pointed out that the High Street could be converted into a pedestrian precinct in the future if it was thought desirable.
The report states that the factors affecting the life and well-being of a town were constantly changing. It is obvious that unless the necessary adjustments to deal with the changes were made in good time, it would become progressively more difficult to deal with the problems.
The problems include the conflict of uses by pedestrians and traffic of the main shopping streets, the approaching obsolescence of many properties, the use of land in the central area for industrial premises and shopping facilities, the congestion of shop properties and poor layout, and the inadequate car parking facilities. A survey of the central area of the town has produced the conclusion that danger is caused for shoppers by traffic, congestion and delays incurred for traffic, and inconvenience caused to traders and businessmen.
The report points out that with the forecasted increase in car ownership the condition would be one which would grow progressively worse year by year, unless action was taken.
The long-term solution to the traffic problem would be to by-pass Rushden and Higham Ferrers, or to construct a completely new A6 road, built to motorway standards. The report, however, points out that it may be several years before one or other of these schemes is likely to be carried out.
As an immediate measure the Ministry of Transport is proposing to "de-trunk" the High Street and direct the northbound through traffic, which it carries at present, via Wellingborough Road and Washbrook Road.
This move would ease the situation in the High Street immediately it was carried out and would enable the whole question of local traffic movement to be studied by the highway authorities with a view to adopting a scheme of traffic management, including, if necessary:
1 Minor road improvements.
2 Re-assessment of the car parking capacity of the High Street itself.
3 Positioning of bus stops.
4 Signposting to discourage all long distance traffic from entering the central area.
The high percentage of Victorian buildings in the High Street have had many years of useful life, but cannot now be regarded as being fully efficient for their present use, says the report.
The growing obsolescence would become increasingly more serious in the future. Unless conditions are created which will encourage the gradual replacement of buildings by modern structures, the town centre would eventually be composed of a collection of largely obsolete properties whose attractiveness to the shopping public could decrease as steadily as the public's mobility increased.
The presence at the rear of the High Street properties of a number of factories, many of which have been established for a long time, inhibited the redevelopment of the shopping area and the traffic which they generated added to the congestion in the main streets.
From the survey taken among shopkeepers it was found that many were short of storage space and many had difficulties with loading and unloading of trade vehicles. Yet at the rear of a number of the properties were semi-derelict areas and narrow derelict strips of land.
An improved layout of the area would prevent the waste of this valuable land, while it would add to the facilities available to traders and the general public.
For motorists, the existing provision of about 300 parking spaces is inadequate at peak periods and in view of the forecast that the number of vehicles of all types will have trebled between 1965 and 1985 more parking areas should be provided if the town was to retain its attractiveness to shoppers.
The planning department all redevelopment scheme was reasonably practicable and it is proposed that planning policy should be to encourage the gradual redevelopment of shopping premises in the High Street to improve standards. This would allow for more efficient use of floor space without expanding the overall area of land devoted to shopping.
A physical measure designed to further this end would be the provision of rear service roads and at the same time a planning policy of control of development would be implemented to contain the shopping premises within the area already predominantly devoted to this use.
The widening of part of the southern section of High Street as redevelopment takes place is a further proposal put forward to improve the general layout. The intention is not to accelerate traffic through the main street but to widen the carriageway sufficiently in its narrowest sections so that a through lane can be provided which will keep town centre traffic moving, while either short time parking or off-loading of trade vehicles could be permitted.
|The Rushden Echo, 10th February 1967, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Town Centre Idea 'Needs Forcing'
The whole future of trade in Rushden's main shopping area hangs in the balance at the moment. Rejection of the recently issued Central Area Report on the town could stop any progress for several years but, on the other hand, its adoption might lead eventually to the modern idea of a pedestrian precinct, in the High Street.
The report, which is at present a draft suggestion only, and which can, and will, of course, be adapted, changed and revised, was made by the county planning department of Northamptonshire County Council.
It was done following a request by the Rushden Urban Council to look into the central area of the town.
At a special meeting last Thursday, members of the urban council and Rushden Chamber of Trade met to hear the county planning officer, Mr. Malcolm Gregory, explain some of the implications of the report and answer questions of a varied nature from the traders, all of whom will eventually be affected if the report is adopted.
The president of the Chamber, Mr. Barry Thomas, told an "Echo" reporter after the meeting that each trader in the town would be asked to give his opinion of the scheme and the findings would then be given to the Rushden Council.
The council chairman, Mrs. A. Perkins, said that the council will be discussing the report in full, but no decision will be made until the views of the traders are known.
The impression given by the traders at the meeting seemed to be one of general acceptance of the principles of the scheme, but it was obvious that many minor alterations would need to be made.
Questions put to Mr. Gregory were comprehensive and well thought out. Traffic flow and car parking, demolition and development, they were all discussed.
Mr. Gregory himself gave a very detailed and graphic account of the report, which, he said, outlined a "modest scheme."
"I think is it essential to remove all doubts about the scale of redevelopment in Rushden."
Later he added "I cannot see that you are going to grow very rapidly and this is of great importance to your trading potential. The shopping catchment area is not going to grow any faster than population growth."
Put simply into three steps, the report, if carried out in principle, would first remove all through traffic from the town centre, make provision for rear service roads to the shops, and eventually could make the area a pedestrian precinct.
The pedestrian way or precinct would, said Mr. Gregory, probably not come to fruition until up to twenty years from now.
"To make the High Street a pedestrian way may not be popular with some people but it is the coming thing. I think that all towns in five or ten years will be looking at making their main streets pedestrian ways.
"We must have a very long-term look at pedestrianizing the High Street. It will make it safer and more convenient, and, providing you can give more car parks, it will improve trade," he said.
Commenting on the rear service roads which would be an essential part of any town centre development, Mr. Gregory said that ninety per cent of the deliveries at present are made from the front of the shops.
"As well as cluttering up the High Street there is some danger to shoppers," he said.
Then of course there is the removal of through traffic, which, said Mr. Gregory, "is not much good to the town."
"It is more nuisance than use to the town. Some cars stop for cigarettes, petrol or probably a meal but that is all."
To prove his point, Mr. Gregory said that fifty per cent of all through traffic was not shopping at all according to a spot check that was made.
"You must keep in mind that a check also proved that the High Street was crossed by pedestrians 3,800 times in one hour in March, 1965, while between 600 and 700 vehicles went down the street in the same time.
"It shows the interrelation which is not good for either traffic or pedestrians," he said.
As Mr. Evans, the secretary of the Chamber said: "There is no urge to make a start and unless the authorities take the bit between their teeth and say that development will take place, nothing will happen unless it is forced upon us. Otherwise you may as well multiply your estimate of about 15 years by ten."
Mr. Gregory said that the initiative lay on both sides, with the traders and the council.
"It is up to you both. It is not a grandiose scheme, it is a sensible, reasonable, modest scheme which can work," he said.
|Rushden Echo, 9th June 1967, transcribed by Kay Collins
Traders Show Little Interest in Town Plans
The changes proposed in the Northamptonshire County Council's plan for redeveloping the centre - the High Street - of Rushden can hardly be described as sweeping, but one would have thought that traders would have been vitally interested. Apparently the vast majority could cot care less. The current edition of the Rushden, Higham Ferrers and District Chamber of Trade's news bulletin reveals that only five per cent of the total number of firms circulated on this issue bothered to reply.
Before discussing the implications and possible recommendation on the county scheme, Rushden Urban Council decided to ask local traders for their views.
A sensible suggestion, but judging from the traders' response, almost a complete waste of time.
However, the Chamber of Trade is determined to get the views of the traders in the central area. After the poor response of the first letter the committee has decided to send another letter to the traders.
The letter will ask if the trader agrees with the redevelopment proposals and for general views and suggestions.
In his first message as president Mr J W Brown calls for members of Rushden Urban Council to make themselves unpopular with Whitehall until new industry can be introduced into Rushden.
Commenting on trade in general Mr Brown said since the wages and prices freeze businesses have been hard put to maintain turnover, let alone increase it.
"This is evident by the number of shop properties, both old and modern, that are empty in the town." he adds.
"One solution would be to lower rents, together with shorter leases, for specialised trades which are not already established in the town.
However Mr. Brown thought these would be short term remedies.
"I am convinced that the long term solution is to introduce new types of industry into the town, and I would say it is up to our elected representatives on the council to make themselves as unpopular with the powers that be in Whitehall until they achieve this result,
"After all, our staple industry, so to speak, the boot and shoe industry, has been in the doldrums now for over a year."
Mr. Brown adds that contrary to optimistic reports most factories were on a four day week.
"Is it right that these workers should be denied the choice of another job offering a full weeks work?" he asked.